According to EA's European Product Marketing Manager, Neil Thewarapperuma the 3DO conversion wasn't meant to happen so soon: `The guys at Extended Play were just messing about with some concepts on the 3DO and producing some testbeds which we may have used in the future. But their efforts were so promising, we encouraged them to continue work.'
Even at this early stage, it's obvious that FIFA is, quite frankly, the most impressive amd realistic sprts game on any format. One of the reasons for this is the addition of an extra dimension: `with the original Mega Drive version, we had tried out various viewpoints,' recalls Neil, `but it was the 3D isometric view that the kids loved the best. You could see everything in detail: the crowd, the players, the action, everything. So with the power of the 3DO we've attempted to add to that experience. FIFA on the 3DO is essentially a football game played in a 3D world.'
FIFA also has selectable multiple viewpoints. In the game's present form, the player can choose from seven set camera angles: three positioned close to the action, three giving you a bird's-eye view of the game, and one, the ball-cam view, which follows the ball around the pitch. All of them are playable and all are spectacular, with the exception of the ball-cam view - the players look very blocky and pixellated in close-up.
As well as these set angles, the game also includes `event-sensitive' camera views. So if there's a throw-in, a corner or a free-kick, the camera swoops around to the most appropriate position. Neil believes that this adds even more atmosphere to the game: `The biggest problem we've had so far was getting the 3D engine up and running smoothly. We spent almost a month just getting that part right, but we're very happy with the result.'
In an attempt to make FIFA more authentic, EA have sampled crowd noise from the 1990 World Cup. And the effect is very convincing you even hear samba drums playing in the background when Brazil are playing. And, just like the Mega Drive original, all the sound effects are completely event-sensitive.
But EA haven't been concentrating all their efforts on cosmetic aspects like viewpoints and sound; they've also been working very hard on sprites and the players' artificial intelligence. `The sprites are twice the resolution of the Mega Drive's and take up almost 2 megabits,' says Neil. `We brought in a top artist who'd actually worked on the Disney movie Fern Gulley, and we asked him to redraw all the player animations from scratch.
`The artificial intelligence itself is actually based on the Sega version, but we're attempting to make the gameplay even more realistic. We want 3DO FIFA to think smart. Things like headers, volleys and interceptions will all become second nature to computer players and they'll react to situations quicker.'
So far, FIFA International Soccer on the 3DO looks extremely impressive. With Victory Goal for the Saturn also promising great things, the words `Sensible' and `Soccer' might even become obsolete.
28TH JULY 1994